Patrol Report W MacDougall 17.12.1955


Narional Archives of Australia Canberra Office A6456 R022/008 1949 - 1956 Welfare of Aborigines Patrol Report W MacDougall 17.12.1955 Copyright P J Mackett, 2006 17 December 1955 Superintendent Range Report on trip with Mr Miller, Superintendent of Reserves SA to Mt Davies and reconnaissance to Rawlinson Range with Mr Nossiter SRRO party. The trip to Mt Davies was hurried and the instruction not to discuss policy was observed so far as possible under the circumstances. It was difficult for a State Protector to obey a Commonwealth instruction not to report or discuss policy with a senior officer of the State Department. Despite the assurance given to the Secretary of the Aborigines Department some weeks ago that the conditions governing permission to enter the reserve would be strictly observed, Mr Frank Quinn has been employed as a carrier and has traversed the reserve without any attempt at observing them. Whilst Mr Quinn is well known and liked by me I feel that he is not the type likely to be approved by the Aborigines Protection Board. Also there has been no attempt to bypass certain water supplies in the Mann Range. The existing road has been graded almost as it existed. As the State Department's Superintendent of Reserves accom- panied me I did not make any enquiries in regard to personnel employed by mining organisations in the Mt Davies area, but I noticed several employed in the area who were without permits to enter. Also that many miles of roads other than those authorised had been made. Geophysicists working in the Lake Wilson area have not been authorised. Natives from WA spoken to at Ernabella are worried at the activity of mines personnel in several sacred areas. They were not concerned by the presence of white men in areas other than ceremonial and secret life areas. Reconnaissance to Rawlinson Range This so-called reconnaissance was a rush trip made by Mr Nossiter. Mr Beadell and myself to transport Messrs Barr, Aitken, Driscoll and Keith to a pre-selected spot in the Rawlinson Range. Owing to the seasonal heat and the hurry, due to the end of the year, the trip was carried out with some difficulty. There was no attempt made to select a site that would inter- fere as little as possible with Aborigines occupying the Rawlinson Range. A direct course was followed to Glen Cumming and a camp was made at the northern end of the Pass of the Abencerrages. Early next day a site for the post was selected and several bore sites chosen. Spinifex fires were seen a few miles to the North West. I visited these fires and saw that they had just been lit and were arranged to burn together and thus trap goannas. No other signs of Aborigines were to be seen at that point. After lunch the party moved back to the South side of the Range where another site was chosen and bore sites selected. I remained in the old camp in the hope that the curiosity of the Aborigines would overcome their fear of this invasion and that they would reveal themselves to just one man. Having waited several hours in camp I climbed a low hill to see if there was any sign of the people approaching the camp. I was surprised to see small fires along the track made by the vehicles that morning, showing not only that they were following these tracks into camp but also that they wished to announce the fact. I returned to the camp. Some time later an elderly man appeared and told me he had nothing that I would want and that he had only a Woomera and one spear which he showed me and the placed on one side then he advanced slowly lifting his feet high so that I could see that he was not dragging a spear held between his toes. I advanced to meet him and invited him to enter my camp. Some little time later he asked if the rest of his party could enter my camp. Another man, a boy of 11 or 12, 2 girls 9 and 10 and a girl of 15 or 16 then entered the camp. Some considerable time later a young man and a group of women and children entered the camp. They then told me how they had hidden and watched our every movement earlier in the day and how they had had to continue their day's hunt without the aid of spinifex fires through fear of betraying their exact position to the strangers. The group consisted of 19 people and were a family group :- Men Women Children Babies Total The head of the family 3 wives 2 small girls & one 1-15 years 1 8 Son of the above 2 wives a boy, a girl 2 7 Grandson of the above 1 2 2 old women 2 Total 19 They had a large wooden dish of stewed wild plums, another of honey ants, two rabbits, two cats, five goannas, honey and a portion of one of the cats was given to me as my portion. Cat meat is highly prized. The old man enquired for what purpose the strangers had visited his country and expressed anxiety when told that they intended establishing a post. The word used means fear (I have not a word for troubled or anxious but I gathered that he was more than just afraid. That he was worried or concerned.) Just before dark I moved to the South side of the Range but found that the Aborigines were following. I made camp in a creek. Next day I left the Aborigines and rejoined the reconnaissance party and subsequently returned to Mt Davies and Woomera. The actions and attitude of the reconnaissance party also shows there is no intention of fulfilling or seriously regarding the promises made by the Commonwealth to the Peoples of Australia. Mr Barr stated that it was intended to interest and encourage personnel to prospect as a hobby thus further invading country reserved for the Aborigines. Mr Barr also stated that some area in the Warburton or adjacent Ranges would be just as good if not better than the site selected for forecasting weather. In view of this statement and of the fact that the area between 25deg 20min and 26deg 30min of South Latitude and 127deg 30min and 129deg of East Longitude has been withdrawn as reserve (the above is an extract from a notice appearing in Government Gazette dated 18th November 1955), there is now no reason to establish a post or build roads or airstrips within the reserve. Any establishment in country which is necessary to Aborigines and their present way of life is contrary to their best interests, but where contacts have already been made is much the less of the two evils. All these activities are of great national importance and must be fully considered by the highest authorities - and those whose time and money is being spent for the Welfare of Aborigines and also for the welfare and protection of Australia are entitled to complete assurance that all aspects are fully considered and decisions reached are acted upon. Also all those who are particuarly interested in the protection and welfare of Aborigines both Government and other organisations must be fully informed of the fact that the area above mentioned as withdrawn from the reserve is occupied by Aborigines and that they are dependent upon that area for their existence, as a community, and their way of life, so that some action may be taken to ensure some protection and thus prevent a condition of 'refugeeism' as long as possible. It is fully realised that progress and science must advance, but if existing measures necessary for the protection and welfare of Aborigines are obsolete, impractible or to be disregarded, please publish the fact so that new measures can be taken, and organisations function smoothly and without false pretences. W B MacDougall Native Patrol Officer
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